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Key Capitol Hill Hearings

Series/Special. Speeches from policy makers and coverage from around the country. (Stereo)

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Pentagon 10, Afghanistan 9, United States 9, U.s. 7, Syria 6, Russia 6, Mr. Blumenthal 6, Ms. Millet 6, Mr. Estevez 5, Connecticut 5, America 5, John Roberts 4, Madam 4, Texas 4, Mr. Leahy 4, Us 4, Colorado 4, Vermont 3, Mr. Udall 3, Assad 3,
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  CSPAN    Key Capitol Hill Hearings    Series/Special. Speeches from policy makers  
   and coverage from around the country. (Stereo)  

    October 30, 2013
    10:00 - 12:01pm EDT  

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quorum call:
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mr. leahy: mr. president, i ask the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, today
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we're debating whether the senate is allowed to vote on the confirmation of patricia millett. she's nominated to fill the vacancy that our current chief justice, john roberts, previously occupied on the united states the united states court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. now, if she's confirmed as of course she should be, she'll be only the sixth woman to serve on the d.c. circuit in its more than 1020-year history. she's be a -- 120-year history. she is an extraordinary nominee, she has impeccable credentials for this important appellate court. i like so many others across this country hope that her confirmation is not going to suffer from the partisanship and gridlock that consumed congress earlier this month. patricia millett has had a brilliant legal career. she's argued 32 cases before the supreme court.
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actually holding the record until recently for the most supreme court arguments by a woman attorney before the court. she's argued dozens of cases in the federal courts of appeals. she's briefed new mexico qiews rust cases in the supreme court and also appellate courts across the nation. she served for 15 years in the u.s. department of justice in both the democratic and republican administrations. she worked for four years in the appellate staff of the civil division. she argued cases in federal and state appellate courts. including the successful constitutional defense of the religious freedom restoration act and the inclusion of the in god we trust on federal currency. she spent over a decade in the solicitor general's office. her stellar reputation led a bipartisan -- a bipartisan group of seven former solicitors general to praise her as unfailingly fair-minded.
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in 2004, republican attorney general john ashcroft awarded ms. millet the attorney general's distinguished service award for representing the interests of the united states before the supreme court. and since 2007, she's led the supreme court practice in the washington, d.c. office of akin-gump. her work in are private practice spans commercial litigation and administrative law, constitutional matters, strat industry tri construction, even criminal appeals. she's represented army reservists and business interests including the chamber of commerce as well as civil rights plaintiffs. ms. millet is a nominee with unquestionable integrity and character. she's committed herself to pro bono work. she has done this throughout her career and has engaged in
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significant community service. it's interesting at a press conference i held yesterday, we had spouses of people in the military and we talked about another aspect of her career. her husband is now retired navy reservist, but as a military spouse when he was called up, ms. millet has a personal understanding of the sacrifice we ask of our service members and their families. at the very height of her legal career, her husband was called on to deploy as part of operation iraqi freedom. he left, of course, as those who are called to serve do, but she's left at home with two young children. and what did she do 12347 she did what spouses all over this country do, she filled the role
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of both parents at home while her husband served in the navy overseas. in fact, just the other day the senate passed the bipartisan resolution to honor families like ms. millet's, we commemorate october 26 as the day of the deployed. so not only is she committed to her own military family, she's helped to secure employment protection for members of our national guard and reserve through her pro bono legal work. mr. president, i know that the distinguished presiding officer is concerned about the guard and reserve in his state of massachusetts as i am in my state of vermont. you should also know the strains that they face, and in a case decided by the supreme court in 2011, ms. millet represented an army reservist who was fired in part because some of his coworkers who stayed at home didn't like his military
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absences. she stood up for every guard member, every reservist in vermont or massachusetts or any other state in this country. and the successful arguments that ms. millet helped craft made it easier for all members of our reserve and national guard to protect their rights under the union formed services employment and reemployment act. through her legal work she has earned broad bipartisan support. that includes the support of peter keisler and kenneth starr and paul clement, the bipartisan group of 110 appellate practitioners as well as 37 deputies solicitors general and assistant solicitors yen general from both republican and democratic administrations. she is supported by both the president of the fraternal order of police and the deputy
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commissioner of the new york police department. she has the support of the military community including major general clark mcnair, u.s. army retired, michael hall, command major, blue star families and the gallant few. the list is so long i ask unanimous consent to include a list of those letters of support for her in the record at the conclusion of my remarks. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. leahy: you know, if a president was to be given a textbook about the type of nominee to send to the united states senate or if united states senators were given a textbook of the type of person to confirm, this would be the golden standard right here. we shouldn't even be having this
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debate as she should have been confirmed unanimously weeks ago. she's the kind of nominee we should support because hers is a great american story of dedication, diligence, patriotism, and extraordinary professional ability. so i hope nobody is going to get involved in partisan politics and choose to filibuster. she deserves to be confirmed. i might say incidentally in the same seat, the same seat on the court when a republican president nominated a man named john roberts to that seat, came here on the senate floor, as i recall, all democrats and all republicans supported him. for the d.c. circuit.
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for the seat that she's been nominated for. it was -- he was supported not because the democrats agreed with him philosophically on all issues but we knew he was highly qualified so he was confirmed to that seat. i don't think it's any stretch to say she's just as qualified. the same seat, the only difference is, it's a democratic president who has nominated her. standards should be the same. same standards that allowed john roberts to be confirmed to that seat with a republican president are the same standards that should allow her to be confirmed to the same seat with a democratic president. she should be confirmed there. and, you know, mr. president, some have talked about what the caseload is.
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well, president bush when the caseload was 121 cases per judge , republican controlled senate had no problem in confirming 11 -- confirming seats to fill 11 seats. you know, when the case load is 185 instead of 121, but a democratic president, we're told gosh, we got to cut back. we got too many judges. it doesn't pass the giggle test. the fact is, this is what republican senate, we voted for people for these 11 seats. now when three of those seats
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are vacant and we're trying to fill one, the same one that john roberts had, some are saying maybe we have too many judges. back then we had 121 cases per judge, now we have 185. no matter how you do it, the issue comes down to simply is this nominee qualified. mr. president, i've had the great privilege of serving in this body for almost 40 years. i voted on thousands of judges nominated by both republicans and democrats. i voted to confirm the vast majority of them, whether they're republican or -- whether
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they are a republican president or a democratic president. i have a hard time thinking back through all those thousands of judges to find even a handful as well qualified as this woman is or as much of a need to have somebody in there. so, you know, this is important. this is not only important on the merits --ant on, and on the merits it is an easy case. there should be no delay based on politics. at a time when the american people are looking at the congress and saying what are you people doing -- first the shutdown and other things -- don't give one more example that
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would bring upon the scorn of the american people toward this great body by saying no to somebody that every single person, no matter what their politics are, no matter what part of the country they're from, they know how qualified she is. they know how qualified. you know, i was thinking yesterday when the group representing spouses of the military spoke about what she did to maintain her legal career, first and foremost, take care of her family while her husband was abroad and then help with such things as help provide food to food kitchens to those less able and less fortunate, it
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is almost when you see a background like this, you say it's too good to be true. but in this case it's all true. let's confirm her. mr. president, what is the -- what is the parliamentary situation? the presiding officer: the senate right now is considering the estevez nomination. and the time right now is equally divided between both sides. mr. leahy: mr. president, i would then -- i would yield the floor, suggest the absence of a quorum and ask the time be equally divided. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. and the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: mr. blumenthal: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the nomination of alan f. estevez of the district of columbia to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the
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sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of alan f. estevez of the district of columbia to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote:
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the presiding officer: any senators wishing to vote or wishing to change their vote? if not, on this vote the ayes are 91. the nays are 8. three-fifths of the senate duly chosen and sworn have voted in the aif i were alternative, and the -- in the affirmative and the motion is agreed to. pursuant to the provisions of s*plt resolution 15 of the 113th congress there will be up to eight hours of postcloture consideration of the nomination equally divided in the usual form. the presiding officer: the senator from alaska.
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mr. begich: i ask unanimous consent that at 12:00 noon today all time on the estevez nomination be yielded back and the senate proceed to the nomination, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table with no further action or debate, no further motions be in order, any statements be printed in the record and the president be immediately notified of the senate's action. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. begich: for the information of all senators, we expect a voice vote on the estevez confirmation. the next vote in order will be cloture on the archuleta nomination. so senators should expect a roll call vote at noon. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: madam president, i know we are on the postcloture time on the estevez nomination, and i wanted to explain why it was necessary for me to put a hold on this nomination this
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last march, for a very important porks as the second-ranking abg -- very important position as the second ranking acquisition position at the department of defense. the reason i put a hold on the nomination was so i could try to get the department of defense's attention to protest their -- the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. mr. cornyn: i did so, madam president, in order to protest the department of defense's business relationship with the notorious russian arms dealer for the last few years the pentagon's been buying helicopters, mi-17 helicopters from roso boron export to supply the afghan military. but this is the same arms dealer
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that is supplying bashar al-assad to kill his own innocent population, innocent civilians. the pentagon itself has confirmed that bashar al-assad security force have used these very same russian-made weapons to massacre untold number of civilians. and yet, the department of defense has stubbornly refused -- and i don't think arrogant is too strong a word -- stubbornly and arrogantly refused to end its relationship with assad's personal arms supplier. in fact, since 2011 the pentagon has given more than $1 billion -- $1 billion -- to roso boron export in no-bid contracts and is planning to spend another $345 million on the company's mi-17 helicopters in 2014.
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let me be clear, madam president. by purchasing mi-17 from roseau boron export our department of defense is subsidizing the mass murder of syrian civilians which is by all accounts simply outrageous. to make matters worse, the mi-17 program is apparently plagued by internal corruption. according to published news reports, there are at least two separate ongoing criminal investigations into the u.s. army office that manages a procurement and sustainment contracts for the mi-17's. last month, i joined 31 of my congressional colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the attorney general of the united states urging him to utilize all available resources to support these criminal investigations.
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for that matter, i've also joined with 12 of my senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter to general dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at the pentagon asking him for assurances that his contracts with rosoboron export are not being abused by corrupt russian officials. americans have good reason to be concerned. after all, it's their tax dollars used to buy these helicopters from russia to -- for the afghan military. but russia has a particularly bad track record. they've received an abysmal grade of d-minus in the anticorruption index. back in 2011, russia's chief military prosecutor publicly stated 20% of his country's annual military equipment budget is being stolen by corrupt
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officials and contractors. one independent watchdog believes that figure could be as high as 40%. in short, there are plenty of legitimate reasons about -- and questions about exactly why american tax dollars are going to rosoboron export. on a per-aircraft basis, the u.s. army is paying more than double what the russian military itself is paying to buy nearly identical helicopters. about a year ago, i convinced the pentagon to conduct a formal audit of the army's 2011 no-bid contract. unfortunately, that audit went nowhere due to persistent stonewalling by -- you guessed it -- rows owe bore on export. we still have a lot of questions and rosoboron export still owe
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us answers which we don't yet have. but here's one question, what prompted the department of defense to buy russian helicopters in the first place? to my knowledge there are plenty of american manufacturers of helicopters that would be anxious to compete for this no-bid contract. by relying upon moscow to supply the afghan military with essential equipment, we've given the kremlin significant leverage over u.s. foreign policy. moreover, equipping the afghans with russian helicopters will make it virtually impossible to achieve any real level of interoperability between the u.s. and afghan helicopter fleets. the department of defense has repeatedly and disingenuously claimed that a 2011 study of a began -- afghanistan's helicopter requirements shows the necessity of buying mi-17
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helicopters from russia. in fact, the unclassified portion of that study found that the ideal aircraft for the afghan military was a particular american-made helicopter. so why are we buying russian helicopters when there are american manufacturers that can meet that very same requirement? makes no sense whatsoever, and the department of defense has steadfastly refused to cooperate with reasonable inquiries into why in the world they continue to persist along this pathway. the reality is the department of defense has plenty of alternatives to buying mi-17's from russia but for some reason or reasons known only to them steadfastly refused to seriously consider any of these alternatives. the most sensible and cost-effective alternative would involve keeping many of the
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mi-17's the afghans already have on hand and life extending them instead of retiring them early which is what's happening now. in other words, mi's 17's that the afghans already have are being required earlier rather than being life extended because of the pentagon's stubborn insistence on buying new ones to replace these existing helicopters with. and, in fact, a majority of the mi-17's the afghan military already have have more than half of their useful lifetime left in terms of flight hours and they're being retired early so the pentagon coon buy these new helicopters to replace them. makes no sense whatsoever. particularly at a time when i know we're all concerned about our defense expenditures and making sure that the defense department has the resources
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they need in order to keep america safe and maintain our commitments around the world. in in the world would the defense department be acting so irresponsibly as they are in the purchase of these mi-17 helicopters? madam president, while i don't have any personal objection to the nomination of mr. alan estevez, i could not support cloture on the nomination. so long with my friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle i'm going to continue to do everything i can to shine a bright light on the pentagon's troubling relationship with this russian arms dealer which is also be a shar bashar al-assad's dealer from whom he purchases weapons to kill civilians in syria. what reasonable pernt wouldn't be troubled by this tangled relationship? ideally, the mi-17 program would simply be terminated. at the very least it should be
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placed on constant and vigorous congressional oversight. and that would serve the interest of u.s. taxpayers and u.s. national security alike. so, madam president, for all of these reasons, i could not support the cloture vote on the nomination of mr. estevez and i'm going to continue to come back to the floor and to use other vehicles, i see the distinguished chairman of the armed services committee on the floor. i know we'll be taking up the defense authorization bill later on this year and i'll be reaching out to him and other colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to bring an end to this troubling relationship with rosoboron export and seek altesh tiff means hopefully from american manufacturers hopefully for this requirement for the afghan military. i ask unanimous consent to append to the record following my remarks two letters, one dated august 5, 2013, to
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general martin e. dempsey, the second which i referred to in my remarks, a letter dated september 16, 2013, addressed to the attorney general of the united states, aircraft holder. -- eric holder. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. levin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: on behalf of senatorlessness i ask christopher landburg with granted floor privileges for the consideration of the nomination of jacob lew. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. levin: i very much support the nomination of alan estevez to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. mr. estevez is a career civil servant who has served under presidents of both political parties since 1981 when he started work at the military traffic management command. over the last 30 years,
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mr. estevez has developed an expertise in military logistics eventually rising to become the first career federal official to hold the position of assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness a position to which he provides civilian oversight for more than $190 billion of d.o.d. logistics operations. he previously played a key role in reengineering department of defense transportation processes and in helping to address logistics deficiencies identified during operation shield -- desert shield. mr. estevez is the recipient of the 2010 presidential ranked distinguished executive award and meritorious executive award, two office of the secretary of defense medals for service and the 2005 service to
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america medal awarded by the partnership for public service. he is an extremely well qualified for this position, madam president, i'm glad that we have now achieved cloture so that his nomination can be voted on. i understand at noon. i don't know of opposition to him in his personal qualifications. i understand the debate over the helicopter issue which he is not the one who ordered nor can he refers it. so that that issue is an issue which has been raised by a number of senators, including the senator from texas, senator blumenthal has raised it in committee, as well. the letter i understand that went out to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has not yet been answered, however, i've spoken to general dunford about this and i'll have more to say about this when this is raised either on the defense authorization bill or on some
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other matter. but for the time being let me say that simply the -- that helicopter is a requirement which has been set by our generals, not by our pentagon people, civilians. it is a top priority that the afghans be supplied that helicopter because it's the one that they have flown, the army of afghanistan has used that helicopter and so without getting into the merits of this because this is left for a later time by the senator from texas and i'm grateful for that, that the debate can not be connected to the estevez nomination where it really has no relevance, because he didn't set the requirement nor did he -- can he reverse the decision, can be set hopefully after the senators receive an answer from the joint chiefs of staff. i strongly support the estevez
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nomination and look forward to a confirmation vote, either a voice vote or a roll call vote if necessary at noon and i thank the presiding officer. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. blumenthal: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. i ask that the quorum call be
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vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. i come to the floor today to speak on two separate and distinct matters relating to the military, and i ask unanimous consent that they be separated in the reproduction. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. no one in this body other than i have the privilege to know justin eldridge of water ford, connecticut. justin was a true american hero, a patriot, a united states marine who served our country in afghanistan and who scarcely more than 48 hours ago took his own life at his home. my thoughts and prayers are with
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justin's wife joanna and their four children and all of justin's family and friends, fellow marines who grieve his loss at this difficult time. i first came to know justin when he formed a chapter of the marine corps league in southeastern connecticut. he believed deeply in the marine corps, in service to his country, his family, and in the values and traditions and ethos of all of our great united states marines and men and women who wear the uniform. yesterday justin eldridge lost his own battle, a long battle
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with post traumatic stress that he fought heroically after serving in the marine corps for eight and a half years before his medical retirement in 2008. even after he returned home from afghanistan, justin had a long fight ahead of him. he returned home with the signature wounds of this war, both traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress. and he worked for years to get the specialized treatment that he needed. he tried hard to be there for his family. according to his wife joanna, his four children loved having him around. and he faced another all-too-common problem in this country. health care at the veterans
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administration and accessing the care that he needed. he needed specialized treatment at the v.a., and the v.a. originally told him he'd have to wait two weeks to get it. but he reached out to my office and my staff did all that we could to get him to the hospital more quickly. he was admitted to the v.a. hospital soon after and began a long road of treatment. and i cannot express in words how deeply sorry i am that that treatment evidently proved unsuccessful. perhaps not the result of the v.a. or its doctors or its hospital, because we are only beginning to learn as a country
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and society how to confront post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury with the specialized diagnosis and care that these diseases demand. even in grief, we should not forget justin's service to his country, his joy and his pride in that service. and he deserved both joy and pride as well as his long-fought battle here at home. and i want to take this occasion to encourage anyone who is suffering from post traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury or any of the other wounds of war to reach out for help. the veterans crisis line is there to help you, anyone who needs that help can call
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1-800-273-talk. 1-800-273-talk. courage is shown not only on the battlefield but afterward upon return when an individual in need of help seeks it as justin did. justin's story also reminds us of the heroic care giveers who take care of our nation's veterans. we owe them thanks, people who dedicate their lives to helping those who have served. joanna also deserves our thanks because she was there for justin by his side throughout his treatment and she never gave up, never relented, never surrendered. she was his full-time caregiver and justin himself continued to give back. i will never forget my conversations with him at that marine corps league and then
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afterward on the phone by e-mail and phone. joanna is a strong advocate for all veterans, as we should be, all of us. she'sstudying psychology in cole and hopes to go to law school. she wants to dead indicator her life to being a veterans' advocate and i commend heard appeared all of our military families, all of our military spouses who are there for their loved ones and all of our families who seek to reach out. we need to keep faith with those veterans. we need to know and discover what will concur the demons that often threaten to subdue our bravest and most selfless veterans when they come back and
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to give them the courage and the strength they need to concur these dreaded diseases that we ourselves have a complicity in creating, we have an obligation and an opportunity to do more, and we must keep faith and make sure that no veteran is left behind. my heart and prayers go to justin's family and, of course, i know that i am joined by all the members of this body, not only in grieving but offering our help and service, if there's anything we can do. mr. president -- madam president, i would like to speak separately now on a topic that has been discussed by two of my colleagues this morning. the senior senator from texas, senator cornyn, and the chairman of the armed services committee, chairman carl levin.
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and i want to thank my colleagues like senator cornyn for joining me in raising a vital issue that must be addressed by this body and by alan estevez, a well-qualified nominee for the position of principle deputy. i will vote for his confirmation today, and i believe that he is well-qualified and has the credentials to perform with distinction in this role. and i hope that uppermost on his list of priorities will be the mi-17 helicopter acquisition that is so misguided and wrongheaded in the way that it has been done by our own department of defense.
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madam president, if you were to stop at stella's corner restaurant on main street in stratford for lunch or a cup of coffee and ask the folks there, what do you expect from your government, i think one of the things they would say is that they expect the united states congress and all of us here to keep our country safe, and when it comes to buying the equipment for our troops and allies, we should do so, hands down, no doubt about it, buy american, make it in america, manufacture it in connecticut or in the united states. nothing could be more simple or straightforward. and yet somehow that main street
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common sense is simply ignored across the river in the united states department of defense, the pentagon, where so many decisions are made. since becoming a member of the armed services committee, i have become aware that the department of defense committed almost $1 billion to provide afghanistan a fleet of mi-17 helicopter helic. let me just repeat -- russian helicopters going to afghanistan with american tax dollars and bought from the russian export agency that at the same time is selling arms to bashar assad to kill his own people in syria. since 2005, the united states has been procuring mi-17's to build the capacity of the afghan
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military and it's working toward a total fleet size of approximately 80 helicopters. the afghan military had approximately 50mi mi-1's 7's af ha last year. this year the army awarded another contract to purchase another 30, with approximately 15 more to come per year. to replace th the aging helicops that the afghan military already has run into the ground and failed to maintain. that's right, the after gang military has failed to maintain those helicopters we bought previously. and now you would think that something had been done to provide the maintenance capacity for these new helicopters, but the answer is "no." the contract to award these
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helicopters was managed in a way to prevent any american helicopter companies from bidding on the work, even though the department of defense's own analysis in 2010 concluded that the made-in-america -- and i'm quoting qush ch-47-d chinook helicopter is the most cost-effective, single-platfor single-platform-type pleat for the afghan air force over a 20-year cycle." end of quote. now, i acknowledge, i may be partial to helicopters made in connecticut, the best helicopters in the world are made in connecticut by the sikorsky employees who happen to stop at stella's on main street for lunch or for a cup of coffee, and i see them there all the time. and that h-92 troop transport helicopter of h-60 should also
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be considered by the department of defense for this mission. but, at the end of the day, "made in the u.s.a." ought to be the ruling principle -- "made in the u.s.a." -- american helicopters for the american military and american allies. in 2011, the army contracted with the russian state-owned arms export firm ruso borne export. yes, the very same rusoborne export that is a key enabler of assad's ongoing slaughter of his own civilians in syria -- women and children in syria die by the arms provided by r. soborne export, purchased by assad with money financed by
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russian banks and purchased from russoborne export. well-documented crimes against humanity, war crimes that eventually should be prosecuted. and i am working with my colleague, senator ayotte, on legislation to strengthen the contracting provisions that prohibit -- quote -- "contracting with the enemy." these purchases are, in effect, supporting enemy purchases. and yet before us is a glaring example of contracting with the enemy. we've all heard testimony that preventing mass atrocities in syria was complicated by their air and naval defense systems that prevent the protection of civilians in sireia and threatens its -- in syria and threatens its neighbors in turkey and jordan.
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where did those systems come from? the answer is, russoborne export, the same systems that could shoot down our plane if we pursue additional measures against syrian war crimes. the same entity that arms iran, where we currently are seeking solutions against nuclear armament and where we have said, all options should be on the table in terms of our military action. the department of defense thinks the best thing for our long-term national security is to pay the russian arms dealer that threatens global security and our own freedom of action. but it gets worse. because, without question, we've overpaid for these russian helicopters.
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a general told me, the best way to think about these helicopters is they are -- quote -- "flying refrigerators that we never should have bought in the first place. " we paid about $8 million a copy while russia sold other copies for $4 million each. other countries buy each helicopter for $4 million. we pay $18 million. and it's still worse. the army acquisition office that handled this contract is now under investigation for -- quote -- "questionable transactions," including potentially improper payments to russian companies involved in the repair of these helicopters, as well as problematic personal ties between the army officials in this office and those foreign entities. now, if i went to sellers and i
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told this absolutely remarkable story, i am hoping that the folks there would have said, nah, you must be making this up. this couldn't happen in the united states department of defense, no way in the united states of america. not with our tax dollars. but, in fact, it is all true, and i have tried to put it as objectively and dispassionately as possible. just the facts. and i suspect for anybody that might have believed this incredible tale, they would have said, well, if a tenth of that is true, what are you going to do to stop it? what are going to do to end this waste of taxpayers' money and
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insult and outrage to the american taxpayer? well, we did something. at my urging and through the work of my colleagues who have spoken, including senator corn cornyn, congress in the defense appropriations act expressly prohibited the department of defense from spending anymore taxpayer money on russian helicopters and doing business with russoborne exports. and, in fact, i wrote to the secretary of defense about this program. i've written numerous letters. and i have met with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. well, did that stop these purchases? no. the half a billion dollar
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contract recently signed, recently completed, now under way by the united states army for more russian helicopters used previously appropriated funds to ignore the will of congress. clearly, the spirit and intent of the national defense authorization act was to end these purchases, and the united states department of defense in effect has defied the will of congress. so here we are today almost a billion dollars out the door, and the near certainty that these helicopters are going to be used to smuggle drugs -- thearktthat's right, smuggle drn afghanistan. the contract has been completed. we can be sure, just as they failed to maintain those helicopters in the past, they will fail again in the future, because the afghan national security forces doesn't have the people trained to maintain the helicopters.
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in fact, right now it doesn't have the people trained to fly those helicopters. and in a few years what the american taxpayer will have to snore this folly is rusted scrap heaps at bagram air force base. now, i understand that some in the pentagon started this program with good intentions. their thinking may have been that the afghans already had some of these helicopters in the process of standing up their capability to defend themselves. they ought to have a few more. and then they transitioned to a more capable helicopter. and i've heard from our generals that we need these helicopters because the afghans know how to fly them. but the facts of the fact are that this program was never designed to be sustainable after
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we leave afghanistan. and my hope is we will leave afghanistan sooner rather than later. there is simply no transition place now or in the foreseeable future to buy american, to train those afghan pilots how to ply american helicopters, how to maintain american helicopters. and when the russians forced us to procure the helicopters from them directly rather than excess helicopters from countries like the czech republic, we should have made a course correction immediately, even if we thought those kinds of helicopters were necessary in the short term, there were options and alternatives that should have been pursued and they were not. and that's why i believe that the plan requested by the senior senator from texas makes a lot of sense.
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he's asked the department of defense for an alternative plan for meeting the afghan requirement. we can't walk away from a problem that we created. we can't walk away from the need for a transition. but there is a better way to get there. and the answer is, very simply, buy american, buy american helicopters. if they need helicopters -- and there is a question whether they do, if all they're going to use them to perform is drug operations and there is reliable information that the helicopters will be, in fact, used for drug smuggling and sales and illegal operation -- but even if there is a legitimate need, even if there is a credible reason, buy
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american. i expect mr. estevez will be confirmed today but i want to say to him, please, as one of your priorities, figure out a way to end these purchases from russian or american exports. you owe it to the american people to find a way to buy american and keep faith with the brave men and women who will use the equipment that you will help purchase with taxpayer dollars. i know you take this responsibility seriously and i hope that you will bring that seriousness of purpose to these issues because they are important not just to the military and not just to taxpayers but most especially to the brave american women who
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wear the uniform of the united states of america. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from indiana. mr. coats: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: madam president, i've come to the floor many times to -- over the past several months to outline the problems that we're facing with the roll-out of the obamacare law, the problems that my constituents are facing and people all across the country. and while it's important to discuss the generic and macro effects of this -- this law and we see it unrolling before us every day, it's also important to understand what the direct effects are to people at a personal level. now, i traveled last week during our break time throughout indiana and talked to a number of people. many of them just came up to me voluntarily to tell me what the
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effect to them was over this confusing, complex and seemingly intractable from an understanding standpoint of obamacare. and so let me read just a couple -- for the record just a couple of the statements that were made to me. an e-mail that i received from daniel in h in elkhart, indianai think summarizes the experiences of literally hundreds of thousands of hoosiers and millions of americans as -- that they're having with the web site alone. he wrote -- and i quote -- "i have tried for three weeks to apply through the marketplace only to electronically sign my application but then it was kicked back to my profile page. this is the most bizarre system i have ever experienced f. a company put a business web site together like this, they would be out of business."
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anthony in indianapolis shared similar concerns. he said, "i have been unable to get through the health care government web site. my wife must notify our insurance company by november 15 if she will keep her existing plan. i understand there are problems with the web site." i think we all understand that at this pointmen point. "i heard the president say you can sign up in person or on the phone or on the internet. but the two people i talked to about this said until the web site works, they can't help. i called the 1-800 number but the healthcare government reps told me his computer was frozen up and he cannot help. i heard about the tech surgery and there will be a few rough spots" -- that's an understatement -- "and how they will be fixed. senator, if you listen to the news, the problems with the system are much deeper than the
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president let on in his tuesday address. i need help and i don't think the system will be in operation in time for me to make an informed decision." these are two statements from only two of the many, many hoosiers who have described similar problems to me, which is probably why when asked about the obamacare web site, an experienced on-line and database programmer told cbs news -- and i quote -- "i would be ashamed and embarrassed if my organization delivered something like that." now, we know that this law passed the senate on christmas eve day 2009 without any bipartisan support. one party alone put this law into place. and we now know that over $400 million have been spent to create a web site so americans
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who are mandated to accept this obamacare law can go and sign up for it. we know that nearly four years of notice has been in place to get just the web site up. and this roll-out, as one democrat senator said over the weekend, has been a disaster. now, if the administration, after four years of effort -- nearly four years of effort and over $400 million can't get the web site right, how in the world can anyone believe that the federal government can manage this monstrous and dysfunctional law that has been imposed upon the american people? now, despite the web site's numerous glitches and many other implementation problems, despite this, the administration still insists on fining taxpayers if
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they don't sign up and purchase obamacare under the compliant policies. what an irony. you need to sign up or you're going to get fined. but the web site is so dysfunctional, you can't sign up. but you're still going to get fined. that is mind-boggling, head scratching and simply unacceptable. now, madam president, we know that there's been numerous attempts to repeal this law, replace it with something far more acceptable, affordable and implementable. we now know that the defund effort that resulted in the shutdown failed to gain the necessary votes to achieve that goal. but i think the responsible thing to do, in september i introduced a bill to delay the roll-out of the obamacare
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mandates for a year. and as the problems with the health care law pile up, i'm going to continue to push for this delay. the delay makes sense because the program is simply dysfunctional and it's not going to be implemented. bottom line, though, is i want this delay so that the american people have another chance to learn what is in this law, to evaluate as to whether or not they want this to go forward as the health care law of the united states or whether they think a viable alternative that we have the responsibility to put forward -- and many of us have advocated components of that -- whether or not that alternative is the better way to go. now, i know it's been said by the president and others that in 2012, the public went to the polls to vote for the presidential election and, therefore, that vote certified that the american people would
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support and wanted the obamacare law. first of all, that wasn't the primary, it was one of the issues that was a determinative factor in the outcome of that election but not nearly "the" factor. because most americans at that point still had not had the opportunity or the experience of -- of -- that they're having now and finding out exactly just how this law works and does not work, finding out all the dysfunction and learning that all of those campaign promises made, or promises made when the law was passed, have simply been broken. you can keep the insurance policy that you have now -- no problem. won't cost a penny more. no problem. on and on it goes. keep the doctor that you want. americans are finding out that none of this is true. premiums will not rise. premiums are rising for many, many americans. this will be easy -- go to a web site, sign up, punch in, put
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your name in, you're onboard, everything's great. none of this has worked. so why not delay this process? not just to learn more about what's here but to give -- primarily give the american people another opportunity to vote with their feet, to walk into the polling booth, this being the issue that they're voting on, and a number of members will have to stand up and either explain why they supported this, why they didn't support it. americans will have a choice, we'll put alternatives in front of them. and so that's the purpose of the delay for a year. one, because it's dysfunctional. two, because americans deserve a second chance to express their opinions on this bill. this has already been passed by the house of representatives and my colleague, representative todd young of indiana sponsored that. it gained bipartisan support.
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22 democrats -- house democrats recognized the need to give americans the same relief from obamacare that businesses are receiving. so codifying the employer delay -- delay on the employer mandate which the president has proposed and put into practice, and doing that for individuals and families that don't fall under the employer category, only is a matter of fairness and that also is something that has to be addressed. recently, several senate democrats have come out and supported delaying parts or all of the president's health care law as well. so i think the opportunity here before -- is before us to put the brakes on trying to jam through something that simply is dysfunctional and not working. and, secondly, to give the american people the opportunity to go back to the polls and decide whether or not this is the way they want their health care programs to go forward. we've had nothing but broken
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promises. we're learning about how difficult it is for the government to manage even the first step, let alone the one-sixth of the economy that deals with our health care. this is important for all americans and i'm urging my colleagues to support this effort to give the american people another chance to look at a more viable and a more affordable alternative. and with that, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. udall: madam president, let me start with a unanimous consent request. i have six unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. and i'd ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. udall: madam president, i also ask unanimous consent that i could address the senate for five minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. udall: thank you, madam president. i appreciate the opportunity to say a few words today in support of my fellow coloradan,
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katherine archuleta, and her nomination to be the director of the office of personnel management. i've known her for years and i have tremendous respect for her. she's given much of her life to public service and her dedication to her communities, her state, and her country is a testament to her character. and i'm very confident that she'll be a steady hand at the helm of o.p.m. and i want to urge all my colleagues to support her confirmation. now, not everyone watching may be familiar with the office of personnel management but it's an important agency. let me talk about colorado in that context. thousands of federal employees in colorado, including those who are helping rebuild our state in the wake of september's tragic flooding, count on o.p.m. it's a critical part of the integrity and strength of the entire federal work force. it's responsible for, among so many other duties, employee
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recruitment and retention and for managing federal benefit and retirement programs. we all expect federal agencies and departments to function effectively and efficiently for our constituents. as someone who ran a nonprofit in colorado for 10 years, i know the importance of maintaining a talented and motivated work force. strong work force management leads directly to better work and better service and better outcomes. which is why it's so important to have someone leading o.p.m.m. who's awho's an advocate for fel employees and strong manager with high expectations. that's again why i stand here this morning. i believe katherine will be this type of leader. she has years of high-level management experience. she's sharp. she's hardworking and she's dedicated to the goal of making government work as effectively and efficiently as possible. she has an impressive resume, as i noted at her hearing when i had the opportunity to intce